The Best Wireless Earbuds and In-Ear Headphones in 2018

By Wired
28 August 2018
Earphones, Wireless headphones, Gear
For those who want wireless earphones with genuinely no wires at all.

Nothing quite beats the convenience and portability of in-ear headphones – especially for commuting or hitting the gym. The problem is, until recently, wireless earbuds weren’t exactly wire free. That’s because, despite packing Bluetooth for a wireless connection to your device, the two ear pieces still needed to be tethered, which usually means an annoying wire left dangling behind your neck.

Thankfully, that’s starting to change, and with the popularity of Apple’s entirely wireless AirPods more manufacturers have begun freeing their buds of cables altogether. We’ve put a whole host of them to the test to find out which perform the best – keep reading for our favourites.

If you are looking for even more headphone options, you may also want to read our guide to the best headphones. Read our best wireless headphones guide for our favourite over-ear and on-ear wireless cans.

Recommended: Jabra Elite 65t

Jaba Elite

Pros: Comfortable, good sound quality, excellent battery life, stable connection
Cons: No waterproofing

While their more sports-focused siblings sit further down this list, the Jabra Elite 65t tick all the boxes for those less worried about workouts and more concerned with day-to-day performance. For that reason, we reckon they’re the best all-rounders you can buy right now, and at a pretty good price, too.

For a start, their fit is much more comfortable than the Elite Sports, and they look a little more stylish to boot. The on-ear controls take some getting used to, but given a few days with them, it isn’t long before you’re using them like a pro.

Sound quality is good, offering a well-judged balance that means bass is weighty, midrange is detailed and the treble is clean. Keen ears will notice the top end is rolled off, ever so slightly, but that helps to ensure there’s no harshness when pushed to high volume.

Unlike the Sony buds, their connection is rock solid at all times, and we don’t notice any video syncing issues like we do with the Jaybird Runs, meaning these can be used for YouTube marathons as well as Spotify playback.

Battery life impresses, too, offering five hours from a full charge, with another two from the case – plus they’re really easy to use. Once you’ve paired them once, they’ll turn on and connect automatically out of the case, and switch off for charging once you place them back in.

Price: approx. $188,

Best for sound quality: Sony WF-1000X

Pros: Sound quality, comfort, style
Cons: No waterproofing, connection not the most stable

If you’re putting sound quality at the top of your must-have list, you won’t find better than the Sony WF-1000X. Midrange quality is outstanding, bass is weighty but agile and they have a great grasp on rhythm and timing. They also come with noise-cancelling – it’s not as effective as you’ll find in over ears, but it goes a long way to dullen the outside hubbub.

Despite a sturdy, stylish build, they’re nice and lightweight, meaning they’re supremely comfortable to wear and sit snugly in your ears without irritating.

If you’re looking for a sporting companion though, you may want to look elsewhere. The Sony WF-1000X aren’t waterproof, meaning they’re more suited to commuting than Crossfit.

Their connection can struggle under lots of movement, too, and you will notice the odd dropout when you move your phone too far away. Keep it close by though and you shouldn’t have an issue.

Playback time is around three hours – par for the course for headphones like this – but its carry case will charge them from flat another two times if you’re caught short.

Price: approx. $218,

Best for iPhone users: Apple AirPods

Apple Airpods

Pros: Ease of use, stable fit, long battery life
Cons: Not very isolating, best experience reserved for iPhone users

Apple’s AirPods have a bit of a love-it-or-hate-it design, but it’s hard to argue that iPhone users can get a slicker experience elsewhere. The AirPods just work, and that is arguably half of their charm.

For a start, Apple’s built-in W1 chip makes for quick automatic pairing with your iPhone, not to mention a stronger connection than regular Bluetooth, meaning drop outs simply never happen.

They also offer a really decent battery life of five hours from a single charge, with up to 24 hours in total with the accompanying (and compact) charging case. You can even get three hours of juice from a quick 15-minute blast.

Siri functionality is built in, though it’s a bit of a faff using it for music control – it’s quicker to do it on your device, but the option is there if you want it.

The fit is looser than you’ll find on most other wireless in-ears, but it is surprisingly secure – if not very isolating from the outside world. This does have a knock-on effect on sound quality, which though clear and well balanced, lacks the detail of some rivals and can sound a touch congested with busier recordings.

Price: approx. $186,

Best for sport tracking: Jabra Elite Sport

Jabra Elite Sport

Pros: Great fitness features, good sound quality
Cons: Uncomfortable to wear

Gym-goers will find themselves spoilt for choice with the ways the Jabra Elite Sport can assist you with your workouts. When used alongside the Jabra Sport app, they’re able to record your heartrate and oxygen consumption to give you a more detailed post-workout report, can coach you through a number of pre-programmed training sessions and even count your reps for certain activities.

The heart-rate monitor isn’t as accurate as you’ll get via a chest strap, of course, but it’ll be close enough for more casual tracking.

The design is fairly chunky, and the fit does take some getting used to, but it’s important that they’re snug enough to stay put during your fifth round of burpees – plus they need to be pretty tight to measure your heart rate.

Thankfully, the Jabra Elite Sport aren’t only about gym gimmicks – they sound good, too, with a crisp, clear performance and plenty of bass kick. They’re also well organised, with a good balance and a clean, easy-going treble. Connection is super strong, plus a recent upgrade gives them a longer 4.5-hour battery life, with two full recharges from the case.

Price: approx. $190,

Best for features: Bragi Dash Pro

Bragi Dash Pro

Pros: Feature packed, decent sound
Cons: Expensive, some features need work

If you want a decent pair of wireless in-ears that are stacked to the brim with features, you won’t get a pair more up to the job than the Bragi Dash Pros. You’ll pay a chunk of cash extra for the privilege, of course, but by the time you’ve got through everything these have to offer, you’ll start to understand why.

Firstly, they offer solid support for workouts, with a heart-rate monitor and the ability to track a number of different activities with live feedback. They’re even waterproof to 1m, so are able to track swims with automatic lap counting.

Runners and cyclists can also leave their phone at home if they wish – the Dash Pros will store the workout data in their 4GB memory and sync with the app when you’re home. There’s no built-in GPS, but it’s accurate enough for most.

Other features include gesture control and iTranslate integration, which allows you to have up to 40 languages translated in real time. It still needs some work, but it’s an interesting feature nonetheless.

Battery life is impressive, matching the AirPods’ five hours (with 30 hours on the go from the case), and even sound quality is decent with good clarity and organisation. There’s a slight hardness to the treble at volume, though, and dynamics could be a touch more expressive, too.

Price: approx. $256,

Best for runners: Jaybird Run

Jaybird Run

Pros: Comfortable to wear, energetic sound, good battery life
Cons: A little bassy, video playback out of sync

Doing the proverbial of exactly what it says on the tin, Jaybird’s first stab at wireless in-ears want to be your companion when you’re out and about, pounding the pavement and clocking up the miles.

As such, they’re well equipped for just that – comfy to wear, have a four-hour battery life (with eight more on hand from the case) and are sweat-proof, too. You’ll even get a lifeline of power from a quick five-minute charge up if you’re caught short.

Their sound won’t satiate the most critical of listeners, but they’re absolutely fit for purpose, with a rich, fun sound that’s agile and energetic for when you need that extra push in the last mile.

The Jaybird MySound app gives you EQ tweaking capabilities, too, with a number of presets to play around with, or the ability to make your own – meaning you can tone down the bass-heavy balance if you prefer.

You’re probably best sticking to music only with these, though – we found video playback to be ever-so-slightly out of sync.

Price: approx. $119,